Yesterday – At the Practice Range
Don’t get involved.
It was dad’s mantra and he abided by it. There was nothing to be gained by interfering. The old expression that said that “The road to hell was paved in good intentions” were words to live by. They served him well for most of his school life.
Getting involved was always messy. Things would never go the way you expected, no matter how much you’d plan ahead. It was better to keep a distance and your interactions down to a minimum. That way, nothing would cause you any problems. It was a peaceful way to live.
But then life would throw something so improbable and ridiculous, you couldn’t help but be forced to action.
And to get involved.
“What the hell is that?”
Mason Sonntag saw something in his rifle scope which he hadn’t thought existed outside of D&D sourcebooks, other RPG’s and stories.
Five child-sized, green humanoid things had been running through the forest behind the St. Lazarus Academy’s target range. They wore what looked like some sort of crappy leather armor and carrying equally crappy long knives. If Mason had to guess they looked like dirks. Although they looked to be in a sorry state, evident signs of rust and other lack of maintenance blemished the blades.
They chased something. No, someone, but Mason couldn’t quite make out who the other person was. Whomever it was, they were pretty short and looked to be wearing some sort of black body suit. Odd thing was they also wore the St. Lazarus black and grey sports jersey and sweat pants. Something like what Mason wore now as he was target shooting, practicing for the upcoming inter-school competitive shooting meet. They also carried some sort of blade. At first blush, Mason guessed it to be a long sword.
What were those things? Goblins? Was this Halloween? Maybe it was some sort of costume party?
Yeah, a party on the side of a hill above and behind a live target practice range of an exclusive private school founded by a famed reclusive family? That would be a big, resounding, hell the friggin’ no.
Ok, time for some Ockham’s Razor action. Putting aside all the other completely ridiculous shit, such as leprechauns and the chupacabra this meant that those were actual damned goblins chasing someone.
Holy shit, this can’t be happening.
Whomever it was, they were in trouble. They tripped against a root which protruded from a tree and tumbled onto their back. Their long sword was knocked from their hand and landed just far enough out of range to make it useless. Looked like the goblins knew a good opportunity when they saw it and were rushed in for the kill.
“Com’on, get up. Get up!”
It was like a horror film unfolded in front of him. The person had hit their head against the ground hard and it looked like she was dizzy. Wait, she? Mason saw it was a young woman, and she looked around his age. She had long, brilliant white hair with lilac eyes. But the most striking thing was what he had thought was a body suit turned out to be her skin. It was ashen black. That was also when he noticed her long ears poking from beneath her hair.
“A drow elf? What the hell?”
The girl stood up and took a stance as the goblins surrounded her. She was weaponless, but it looked like she wasn’t helpless.
One of the goblins dashed toward her and stabbed with their dirk. With what looked to be a practiced motion, she side stepped it and grabbed the knife hand while delivering a blow to the to it’s back. The thing crumpled to the ground, its neck broken.
She tried to grab the knife but was interrupted by another goblin who jumped at her, slashing from above. This time she dodged backward, and avoided the attack. The goblin kept attacking her with its dirk, trying its best not to get too close to her, but Mason could see it was getting frustrated since she kept dodging.
It was then he noticed another two of them rushed her from behind.
“She’s not gonna make it.”
Mason grit his teeth, “Dammit.”
She needed help, but he couldn’t pull the trigger.
Shooting practice targets was one thing, but shooting another living being?
To have to do it again… No…
Instead of pulling the trigger, all he saw was his friend’s face, and it made his right hand seize up. Mason still could clearly see the crazed look in David’s eyes as he casually walked the halls of their old school back in the US. He still heard the screaming. It always echoed through his dreams. Those where the worst nights were he couldn’t sleep and drenched the sheets with sweat.
Everything slowed down. Mason remembered the last time this had happened. It was that day.
David shot at anyone and everyone, only taking an occasional moment to reload a new magazine after he ejected a spent one. The metal clinking of the Sig Sauer’s magazine as it dropped to the floor resonated through Mason. Like a coward, Mason had hid in a closet when he heard the shooting start. He knew what was happening out there but instead of doing something he just hid. Mason had missed his chance to stop it right there and then when David was reloading but instead he stayed hidden and silent. While he did eventually get out when he realized the shooting wasn’t going to stop and no one else was coming, Mason could have stopped it earlier. He only needed to do something.
In the end he did, and it cost his friend’s life after wresting the gun from him. But he could have done more instead of just hiding.
“No, not this time.”
It was at the extreme range of his Sako TRG-42, but he had loaded the .338 Lapua Magnum rounds himself in his father’s workshop. They would reach.
He pulled the light trigger of his rifle. The recoil bit into his shoulder as the round broke the sound barrier in an instant. The bullet’s loud report echoed across the school’s rifle range as it normally would.
But this time, its destination was not the same.
Normally, the round would impact the practice target set at 1,000m but that wasn’t the target in Mason’s crosshairs.
The shot hit one of the goblins rushing the drow girl. The round entered through the lower half of the goblin’s head and exited in a spectacular spray of gore and viscera which painted the other one attacking along with it.
All the goblins stopped and looked around, trying to figure out what had killed one of their comrades. The drow girl took this chance to slide into the stance of the one that had been trying to stab her and hit with the palm of her hand upwards, and killed it. She then armed herself with its knife and faced the other goblins.
Mason breathed hard as he flipped the rifle bolt up and back, ejecting the spent brass. He kept the motion fluid and slammed the bolt back into place. The red ‘chamber loaded’ indicator peeked out from the side showing the next round was inside.
Looking through the scope once more, he saw the goblins were confused, but they regained their senses when she had killed the one attacking her from the front. The goblin from behind jumped into the air attempting to attack her from above.
Mason tracked the goblin as it arced through the air, after quickly taking into account the goblin’s arc and the range adjustments, he fired the next round and placed it between the goblin’s shoulder blades. A red hole appeared in front of the goblin as it unceremoniously landed a couple of feet from the the drow girl.
The two remaining goblins charged. Mason wasn’t much of a blade person, but he could tell she fought with a fluidity and grace he hadn’t seen before. Even with such a crappy weapon, she still used it to its maximum efficiency.
She stabbed one of the goblins and juked away from it as it fell. Unfortunately, it looked like the last one had grown a brain cell as it circled around to strike her back.
“Yeah, not happening,” Mason muttered as he shifted his rifle once more, and started to sight the remaining goblin.
Damn, it was directly behind the swordswoman from Mason’s vantage point. If he fired now the round would have to go through the girl to hit the goblin.
Being in the school’s competition shooting team meant Mason had a lot of practice in performing all sorts of difficult shots, but he’d never done it in a live-fire situation like this.
Well at least a long shot that is.
Mason took a deep breath and steadied his hand. Every detail was laid out as if it were a map. He knew where everything was and where it was going to be. It was almost as if he were God in this very single moment. Right before he pulled the trigger.
He pulled the Sako’s trigger for the last time.
It was then an odd thing happened. He normally couldn’t see the actual bullet traveling but this time it was different. Mason saw the bullet as it broke the sound barrier, displacing the air while it flew toward the goblin. It was also sheathed in what looked to be some sort of whitish light.
And the goblin? It was moving so slow. Everything was just so slow. It was like both the goblin and the drow girl had stopped moving at all.
“What the hell…?”
The light-ensheathed bullet passed by to the right of the drow girl’s right hip by mere inches, the turbulence causing her hair to flap backwards as if it were trying to catch the supersonic projectile.
It tore through the head of the goblin and the corpse dropped to the ground.
Mason released his breath and everything sped back up to normal. In a lot of ways, it reminded him of how sniping was in FPS games like Call of Honor but what the hell was that light? Muzzle flash? No way not with his rounds. No unburned powder in those cartridges.
He looked through the scope again and saw the drow girl had picked up her sword and was stabbing each of the goblins in a seemingly unnecessary finishing move. Or at least it looked like she was stabbing the ones that Mason had hit.
“What, are you kidding me? You can’t get much deader than that…”
Mason continued to watch her through his scope. Thank God no one was at the range on Saturday or they would have wondered why he was holding his rifle angled slightly higher than the target’s line of site. One of the advantages of being in the Shooting Club’s competitive team: Relatively unrestricted access to the target range. But he still needed to account for all his brass and actual shots fired via reports. A pain the ass but necessary due to Japan’s restrictive gun laws.
He never thought he would see something like her. A real drow elf! Then again, real goblins, too! Mason wondered though if she was also evil since traditionally the drow were considered an evil race, at least according to RPG’s. Of course, those were games and this was reality. A part of him said not to shoot and he always tried to listen to his instincts.
As she finished checking each of the goblins, Mason noticed her long white hair actually reached down the length of her back. It was hard to tell what her body looked like from the jersey and sweat pants she wore, but he definitely noticed the two swells of what were nicely-sized breasts. Her jersey was cut on the right side and he could see some blood there, but it looked to be only a flesh wound.
God she was so beautiful.
And she was staring right at him.
Even though he was over a kilometer away, Mason got the feeling she looked at him through the rifle’s scope, right into his eyes.
He removed his right eye from the scope, blinked his eyes a couple of times as if to ward away a mirage, and looked back through his scope to find her gone.
Mason once more removed his eye from the scope and muttered, “What the fuck just happened?”
Feeling his adrenaline drop, he sighed and rested the rifle on the range stand. What the hell was going on?
Of course she left all the bodies behind. Crap.
“Dammit, now I gotta clean up the mess and make sure I account for those “practice” shots before Sensei comes back. Oh and she could have at least taken those bodies with her. What the fuck am I gonna do with those damned things!”
Pushing the oddities to the back of his mind, Mason grabbed his range bag.
“Time to clean up the mess.”